What Does Making Amends Mean?

making amends

Relationships are chief among the casualties of substance use disorders, and for good reason. Loved ones who would do anything to help may eventually be overwhelmed by the reality of addiction. Those in the throes of this disorder behave in ways that don’t align with their values, religious beliefs, or moral codes. They may lie, cheat, and steal to maintain their supply of drugs and alcohol. That’s why the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous call for us to make amends during the recovery process. But what does making amends mean, and how is it different from a simple apology? Read on for the answer and an AA amends script.

Amends Definition

Merriam-Webster defines making amends as “to do something to correct a mistake that one has made or a bad situation that one has caused.” When you make amends, you go further than just saying “I’m sorry.” You acknowledge your errors, then take action to make up for what has happened in the past.

Steps 8 and 9 both deal with repairing relationships. In Step 8, people in recovery look back on their actions and identify where they are at fault and what can be done moving forward. In the 9th Step, they then begin to make direct amends whenever possible.

Apologizing vs Making Amends

Making amends is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” It’s going the extra mile to make things right. By making amends, you are clearly demonstrating the difference between how you acted before and how you will behave from now on. Apologies don’t address the undercurrents of our choices in addiction, nor do they illustrate our intentions for the future.

A few examples include:

  • Spending more time with your children to make up for missed soccer games, graduations, and study sessions.
  • Keeping your promises and showing up to events instead of flaking on commitments.
  • Repaying any outstanding financial debts to loved ones.

How to Make Amends

The idea of making amends can stir up difficult emotions. While some people are excited about this process and want to dive right in, others hesitate and even struggle to admit what they’ve done. No matter which camp you fall into, the instructions below will help you to get started on Step 8 and Step 9.

Be Intentional and Realistic

First, it is important to rein yourself in. Avoid the urge to say or promise things impulsively. This is a delicate process that requires forethought, reflection, and strong commitment. If you find yourself jumping to make things right, that’s a great instinct! Just be sure that you can practice what you preach in the years to come.

Acknowledge That This is an Ongoing Process

Remember that part of making amends is demonstrating changed behavior. Even concrete steps like repaying a debt aren’t done once you hand money over; you also have to avoid betraying that person in the future. For this reason, amends are an ongoing process without an end date.

Work with a Sponsor

Sponsorship is critical to all of the 12 Steps, but it’s especially helpful at this stage. A sponsor can offer guidance, expert input, and information from their own experience working these steps. They can identify holes in your logic, places where you’re holding back, and ill-advised choices (like making amends to a person who does not want to hear from you).

Do No Harm

Sometimes, trying to make things right can cause others distress. There are cases in which reaching out to someone, even to apologize and let them know you’ve changed, can cause pain. Additionally, revealing the things you’ve done without a loved one’s knowledge often results in anguish, not healing. Before adding amends to your list, think about your motives for contacting this person and work with your sponsor to determine next steps.

AA Amends Script

While there is no one set “script” for this process, there are a few key points that you should be sure to incorporate. Work with your sponsor, treatment center, and 12-Step group to determine which parts of this are right for you.

Explain Your Intentions

Arrange to speak with the other person – while COVID-19 has complicated this process, making amends face-to-face is encouraged. Speaking on the phone can also be an option. If appropriate, you can let the person know how amends are related to staying sober. However, your primary goal should be to acknowledge that you have done wrong and would like to make up for it.

Own Your Actions

Apologize for what you have done and fully own your role. Avoid the temptation to shirk responsibility by casting blame or justifying your actions.

Offer Restitution

At this time, you can offer whatever restitution you have deemed appropriate. If you are behind on child support payments, for example, you can give the other person a payment (rather than just having the conversation about missing payments).

“What Can I Do to Make This Right?”

This part is perhaps the most daunting, but it is also the most important. Let the other person explain how they feel, how they were affected, and what they need to move forward.

Repairing Relationships in Recovery

At Augustine Recovery, we understand how addiction affects the family unit. That’s why we designed a unique approach to 12-Step treatment. Those who attend our treatment programs will work all 12 Steps while in our care. They will also have access to robust family programming which provides ample opportunity to make amends, learn about the disease of addiction, and begin repairing relationships.

To learn more about Augustine Recovery, contact our Admissions team.